Fish, more port, and fado music, or Oporto part 2

Port signs

Port maker signs along the river

A quick change Wednesday night and we were out again in Douro Marina, heading for dinner at the San Pedro (or something like that) fish restaurant that everyone recommended and which, to be fair, we had seen at lunchtime when they were grilling fish outside, and thought it looked good. It was a bit of a disappointment, unfortunately, not so much that there was anything wrong with the food as the fact that it wasn’t cooked all that well – or, rather, too well done. Paul and I had squid and prawn kebabs, which were as chewy as anything, and James’s slip sole was also a bit on the leathery side. Kevin seemed to get the best as he declared his fish ok.

View of bridge in Oporto

View of bridge in Oporto

Thursday morning was partly taken up with the aforementioned buggering around with the engineer looking at the engine, but let’s not go into that again. There appeared to be more to do, so we set off to the fishing tackle shop, apparently a high priority. We set off for Oporto again, firmly clutching our Churchill’s voucher, had an extensive stop at the fishing tackle place and then James had to go back to see the engineer’s boss so the boys went one way and James and I headed back, him to eventually be charged 30 euros for somebody doing nothing useful on the engine, and me to book a table for dinner than night in a restaurant advertising a fado music evening.

A bit like herding cats, but I finally found the boys who had kindly stopped for a beer break to allow me to catch up with them. It was at a cafe, also fish grilling place, with a nice young man who had cheerfully been shouting at us the day before to have the best fish around. While we were there he continued his spiel, this time with the passing by women: “Hey, beautiful girls, come and taste my fish!”

The tram in Oporto

The boys on the tram in Oporto

We continued on our way, and had to stop at a small cafe near Churchill’s so James could catch up with us. We had a lovely time; the nice young man there was very earnest and did a bit of the old corporate stuff but seemed entertained by the crew. We expected to pay something once we’d moved from beyond the basic tasting and tried the 2011 vintage at 65 euros per bottle plus a couple of others but he assured us it was all free. We did have a slight urge to buy port in Oporto but we never did manage that.

Does it sound like all we did in Oporto is eat and drink but we did do a lot of walking around and looking. I had convinced Kevin that he should buy Portuguese cork postcards to send to his nephews and nieces; he went along with that and later discovered that they are virtually impossible to write on and definitely impossible to stick a stamp to.


The tram in Oporto

Having said we did more than eat and drink, we found a very nice tapas place in one of the main squares, had a few nibbles and wine (or beer), watched James on a business call, and listened to students playing music. For beer money, our waitress explained. Her parents owned the cafe and she was working there while waiting to hear if she had been accepted to Birmingham university to study for a PhD in forensic psychology.

Speaking of Birmingham, here’s another of those small world moments along the lines of Kevin’s sister living in my mother’s nome town of Huntington, it turns out that Paul was in the police force with my best friend’s husband.

Back to Oporto and Afurada. We thought we would take the tram and water taxi back again this time, but we ended up walking and taking the taxi. Same boat man, equally pleased to see Paul again.

We had time to change for dinner and head off for our 8pm sitting. Apparently everyone turned up around the same time, we had nibbles and some music, soup and some music, main course and then dessert and coffee and more music. About midnight it would finish, we had been told, but given that we wanted to get off early we figured we’d leave early.


The market in Afurada

The food was excellent, the service was cheerful and we enjoyed the music. Although fado music is narrative-based and we couldn’t understand a word of it, we clapped when everyone else clapped, laughed when they laughed and sang along when it seemed appropriate, even if we just sang, “La la la.” We duly left around 10:30 so had a reasonably early night.

Cleaning lampreys 2

Cleaning lampreys

Afurada is a charming little village, a traditional fishing village, and the local speciality seems to be lamprey, which Kevin was keen to try but never found the opportunity. There is the public laundry, which I have mentioned, and many of the Portuguese tiled houses, which are so charming.

We fuelled up the next day, which I think I have mentioned in the context of James’s wasted 30 euros, and off we set.

We are currently in Camariña, but the plan is to have lunch, fuel up and then head off to Muxia for no other reason than that it’s different. And more of all of that later.

Trams, boats, and funiculars

The approach to Ria de Camariñas

The approach to Ria de Camariñas

We are now in Ria de Camariñas (moored up at the Club Nautico) waiting out some bad weather. We arrived yesterday having battled our way from Oporto with a mixture of weather, nearly all of which was either head on or had no power at all. By strange coincidence, or maybe not, Masquerade’s previous owners stayed here for a while when they brought her from the UK to Portugal.


Mooring up

So as we sit here in the rain wondering if we should have moored instead in Muxia (where the Virgin Mary appeared to St James as he was preaching), I could try and do some backfilling on our Oporto trip.

Once we had established that we needed to do


Afurada village

something about the ignition (or whatever) not turning off, we headed into the nearby village of Afurada with James and Paul on a mission for cooked breakfast. That became a notion to settle for toast, and we eventually ended up, after much sign language, with ham and cheese croissants. Very nice they were, too. And we got a nata each, the custard tart that Kevin had been hankering after.

Douro marina

Douro marina

Onwards into the town of Oporto itself (technically, the Douro Marina, where we were moored, is in Gaia on the other side of the river), which was a couple of miles walk along the riverbank. A beer stop as it was very hot, and we resisted all the port houses and their tastings (even Churchill’s where we had a token from the marina for a free tour and tasting).

I should say here that when James and I checked in at the marina, the woman was exceedingly friendly and helpful, giving us maps of the area and spelling out just about every local landmark and attraction, including – which I forgot to mention – the local public laundry where people could wash their clothes and leave them to dry on lines by the water.

Boys and vat

Yo ho ho and a barrel of port

Our resolve finally cracked and we dived into a port house (cave) demanding a port tasting, forget the tour, just give us the port. The posh option gave us two chocolates each as well as three kinds of port (white, ruby, and tawny), and we had a charming woman telling us all about the house – Burmester.

Refreshed and happy, we crossed the bridge and took the funicular up into the town on the basis that it would be easier to do that and walk down. And I love funiculars.

Tasting glassesPorto (or Oporto) is beautiful. We wandered around admiring the scenery until the desire for lunch kicked in. We found a lovely wine and port shop that said it served light lunches as well, so we dived in there where we had a very palatable bottle of Douro wine with a cheese plate and flambéed sausage. Lovely. But we managed, as with the Burmester cave, to leave without buying any port, though we were templed by the Niepoort which the Burmester lady had told us was very good.

The idea was to take the tram and water taxi back so that we could experience different forms of transport. Paul spotted a butcher on the way, with black pudding that had been on the wish list for breakfasts, so in we went. While we were there we were admiring one of the legs of dried (smoked, as it turned out) ham that were hanging up; it was such a low price we couldn’t resist so bought one for the boat. (And some lovely meals we’ve had out of it too.)

Port signsWith Kevin lugging the ham, we wended our way back through the town to find the tram stop, finding along the way a jewellery shop where James was able to have his watch strap repaired (one of the tiny screws had fallen out and luckily I found it in our cabin). The shop was run by a charming couple who didn’t charge James for the repair. The other two in the party were slightly cynical and said that it was because he had bought me a pair of earrings.

Water taxi to the marina

Water taxi to the marina

The tram stop – by happy coincidence – was close to a bar, well several, actually, so we stopped there for a quick one. Tram ride to the water taxi across from the marina, where Paul made friends with the water taxi driver, and back to the marina we went, Kevin still lugging the ham.

I think we may be about to go into the town itself to see if we can provision up on a Sunday. So I’ll stop here and try to get this online.

More anon.